Who wouldn't want to be a rock star? They get fame, money and all the chicks. However, scientists are warning people wanting to live the rock 'n' roll lifestyle that successful rock and pop stars are significantly more likely to die a premature death.
While the finding is not exactly surprising as Michael Jackson, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and Kurt Cobain all met an early end, scientists have now quantified the increased risk of death associated with musical stardom.
In fact, new research published in the British Medical Journal, reveals that solo rock and pop stars are twice as likely to die an early death as stars in equally famous bands.
While the stereotype of stars living the fast life and dying young may have some truth to it, researcher Mark Bellis of Liverpool John Moores University in UK and his team found that musical celebrities who died of drug and alcohol problems were more likely to have had a difficult or abusive childhood compared to those who died of other causes.
The study found that nearly half of those who died because of drugs, alcohol, or violence had at least one unfavorable factor in their childhoods, compared to one in four of those who died of other causes. Furthermore, four out of five dead stars who had more than one unfavorable childhood factor eventually died from substance misuse or violence-related causes.
The latest study was based on publicly available biographical data of 1,489 pop stars reached the peak of their fame between 1956 and 2006. For their study, Bellis and his team included pop/rock, punk, rap, rhythm and blues, electronica, and new age musicians but left out those in country, blues, jazz, vocal, Celtic, folk, and bluegrass genres.
Each musician was matched by gender and age at the time they reached fame to a cohort in the general population.
In the 50-years the study examined, 9.2 percent or 137 of the stars died. However, researchers noted that North American music celebrities were significantly more likely to die, with 99 of the 832 North American stars meeting an early death compared to 38 of the 657 European stars included in the study.
Bellis and his team explained that famous North American stars appeared to start paying the price immediately after researchers compared their relative survival with their post-fame matched population and found that it dropped consistently from 99.3 percent the year after they achieved fame to 87.6 percent 40 years later.
However, the survival pattern of European stars was different. Researchers said that the first year of fame their relative survival fell from 99.6 percent of the matched population survival in the first year to 97.6 percent 24 years later, and reached the population levels 36 years later.
Researchers found that while gender and age at which fame was reached did not influence life expectancy, race did. The findings showed that stars from non-white backgrounds are more likely to die early.
Surprisingly, the study found that both North American and European solo performers were two times more likely to die a premature death compared to those in a band after showing that 9.8 percent of solo singers in Europe died in the 50-year study period compared to 5.4 percent stars in bands, and 22.8 percent versus 10.2 percent in North America.
Researchers note that while people may focus on the direct impact of substance abuse and celebrity death, they may not be aware of the long-term consequences of living a rock star lifestyle like cancer, heart disease and psychological problems.